The study and pursuit of martial arts isn't about rank. It's about living life, being a positive force in the world, and improving and protecting the lives of those around you!
The Myth of Teaching
Don't make the mistake of becoming a "teacher"! You can't teach anyone. That being said, conversely, everyone can learn. Know that it's not your responsibility to teach, it's the student's responsibility to learn. Don't ever teach, just train!
To the Bujinkan community here in Japan, as martial artists I'd like to say that it's our responsibility to provide leadership, calmness and stability to our families and those around us!
In my humble opinion, based up on my scientific knowledge and the assumption/possibility that things are much worse than being reported by the Japanese Government, there is no reason for panic here in Tokyo as things currently stand. While we each have to make our own decisions and do our best to protect our families, honestly I've been surprised and disappointed at some of the irrational fear that I've witnessed amongst some of the expat community.
The people up in the Tohoku area are the ones who are truly suffering and are still potentially at the most risk! Let's keep our wits and stay calm, logical and informed!
We`d like to announce Kikanju, a major upcoming 3 day training event that will be held on August 27th, 28th and 29th, 2010. Hatsumi-sensei has given both the name and his blessing to the event. Kikanju will feauture Lubos Pokorny, Pete Reynolds, Anthony Netzler and Rob Renner. There are few non-Japanese that have spent as much time training directly with Hatsumi-sensei as these individuals. By bringing together this highly experienced and dedicated group, the goal is to share Sensei's art and feeling and to provide the best possible training available outside of Japan.
Kikanju will be held in central Europe in the Czech Republic. The location for this event has been intentionally chosen with the hope that anyone and everyone, from all corners of Europe and the world, can attend and participate. The intention is to erase national borders and politics, creating a space for mutual study and understanding. More information can be found at: http://www.bujinkandojo.eu/kikanju.
We sincerely hope to see you there!
Lubos, Pete, Anthony & Rob
Europe Trip February 2010
From February 4th - 23rd I had the good fortune of visiting and staying with a number of friends (Sascha Uvira, Simon Yeo, Dino Gheri & Roger Matsson) and training at their respective dojos in Germany, England and Sweden. Additionally while I was there I got to spend time with Lubos Pokorny, Norman Smithers, Tony Miller, Sheila Haddad, Thomas Franzen, Rikard Sundelius, Mats Hjelm, Ola Gronlund, Jim Berglund, Mats Brickman & Arvid Karlsson, all good friends and dedicated budouka.
One of the things that impressed me the most this trip was the the absolute egolessness of all my hosts (Sascha Uvira, Simon Yeo, Dino Gheri & Roger Matsson)! The greatest surprise was at my first stop in Wirges, Germany with Sascha Uvira. Although we had spoken numerous times here in Japan, this was the first time for me to really spend significant time with him. I won't mince words, I have to say I've become a become a real big Sascha fan. He's a generous and great guy with excellent taijutsu. A true frienship has been forged there!
Additionally with Simon, Dino and Roger, although I had known and stayed with them all before, this trip gave me a renewed and deepened respect for each of them, both as individuals and as martial artists.
With all four of them (Sascha, Simon, Dino & Roger), it is amazing to see that martial artists at their level could remain so down to earth, so open, so generous, and so hungry to learn. They are all excellent budouka, top notch indiviuals, and great friends! Thank you each and everyone of you for your friendship and for being such excellent hosts!
Although it snowed literally every day I was in Europe, it was a really great trip and successful on all fronts. My friends were all in good health and doing fine, attendance at all the seminars was good, feedback from the events was excellent, I made new friends and forged new relationships, and my training really benefited! All in all it was a very succesful and I am looking forward to being back in Europe later this year in August!
Thank you again to my generous and gracious hosts and to all those who attended and supported the events! I look forward to seeing you all again soon!
Dojo Schedule Update
Just a quick reminder that Pete will be in visiting several dojos in Europe from February 4th - 23rd. His European training schedule is available here. If you are able, please join Pete at one of these events.
Please, note that due to Pete's travel there will not be any training at the Fudoushin Bujinkan Dojo on the following dates: February 4th, 11th, 18th. The next class in Nezu (Tokyo) will be February 25th.
Chaos and Disorder
One Friday night after training at the Hombu, as we were putting our "street clothes" back on, Hatsumi Sensei was walking into his small changing room/office when he looked down and noticed my backpack. What caught his eye was a kanji placed on the backside between the two straps. As soon as he noticed it, he quickly looked around and called over the nearest Japanese to look at it. As they studied it, Hatsumi Sensei said, "Kakkoi-ne?" or "Cool, isn't it?" Then as quickly as he noticed it he was again on his way. What was the kanji you may be wondering? The kanji was "ran" (pronounced much like the man's name Ron) which means chaos and disorder.
What makes this relevant is that we frequently hear complaints from those who think that there's no rhyme or reason to the ranking structure in the Bujinkan or that the 9 ryu-ha aren't clearly separated and categorized or that there are poor/bad teachers allowed to teach within the organization. The list of criticisms goes on and on. Generally, the complaints revolve around the perceived lack of structure and order in the Bujinkan and the concern over how those outside the Bujinkan will view us.
Please, brace yourself for this revelation. Maybe the Bujinkan is the way it is because Hatsumi Sensei wants it that way. Are you still there? O.K. this bears repeating. Maybe the Bujinkan is the way it is because Soke wants it that way! Now here's the million dollar question, "Why would Soke want it this way?" It's very unstructured, it's not very orderly, why would he want it like that?
Possibly this disorder, this chaos, is part of the training. If everything were laid out nice, neat and orderly, we wouldn't really have to use our brains would we? We could just sort of blindly trust and accept everything at its face value. If all 8th Dans, for example, were exactly at the same level, and they were all really good, we wouldn't have to use our own judgment to determine whether or not they were worth training with or not. If all the ryu-ha were presented in a nice, neat and structured curriculum, then we would be missing an important training tool in the Bujinkan, chaos!
Chaos serves an important function. While of course, structure and order serve a purpose also, the overwhelming need for it is a weakness. Outside the dojo the world can be chaotic and all is not always what it seems. Hatsumi Sensei is training us to deal with and excel in these real world often chaotic conditions. That is "Nin" isn't it? Enduring and persevering through that which others can't or won't. How many of us have seen people go by the wayside because someone else got a higher rank or because there isn't an official Bujinkan curriculum or guide to the 9 ryu-ha? It's foolish isn't it? You either, trust and respect Hatsumi or you don't! It's pretty black and white.
If you do have this trust and respect, you know you are gaining life enhancing skills and insights. You can appreciate the chaos and know that it doesn't matter what anyone else's rank or status is. By the way, in case you're still concerned about those bad teachers, that's where the bad students go!
Getting Too Attached?
"Don't get too attached to your weapons", admonishes Hatsumi sensei. But what does he mean by that?
He went on to explain that if you concentrate too much on your sword, bo, or knife you are probably forgetting your taijutsu and your likely to be defeated. You may be overlooking the opportunity to discard your weapon for a better one or missing an opening in your opponent's defenses.
Upon further examination it seems quite logical and obvious, but like most everything Hatsumi sensei says, there are deeper levels of meaning if only one takes the time to look. He also means don't get too attached to other things in life, for example material goods like your jewelry, your car, or even your home. If lost or stolen, these can be used against you, particularly in an emotional sense. In addition to physical objects, maybe it would be wise to not get too attached to certain people in our lives.
Maybe the underlying lesson is to be very careful about choosing who and what you choose to become attached to.
Fusui / Feng Shui
We've gotten off to a whirlwind pace here in 2001! Hatsumi Sensei thus far has been primarily focusing on Gyokko Ryu and Daisho (long and short sword). That's been the physical foundation on which he has been building the feeling and understanding of Fusui, written with the kanji for air and water. Fusui like Gyokko Ryu has its origins strongly entrenched in China.
Fusui is more commonly know in the west as Feng Shui. Most westerners have a limited idea of Feng Shui, specifically as it pertains to properly placing furniture and using appropriate colors to have a harmonious flow of energy throught your home or office, and the average Japanese is likely to think it's fortune telling. These misconceptions give but a limited insight in to the full meaning of Fusui.
Fusui, as I currently understand it, is the understanding and awareness of the natural flow of energy and the forces of nature, both on a tangible and intanglible level. Hatsumi Sensei has given a number of exampes to help us gain insight into it. One example given was the cycle of precipitation. Water falls from the sky and flows downhill due to the force of gravity. Once in the sea, water rises in the form of vapor overcoming gravity via evaporation. As it rises, it forms clouds that are then driven by the wind back over land where the process starts all over again. This cycle involves Fu (wind), Sui (water) and the natural forces and energies of gravity and heat.
That is all fine and well but how does it relate to my Budo training you may ask. This is where some of Hatsumi Sensei's other examples help us gain a measure of understanding. It's all about being aware of, and using these natural forces at the appropriate times. His first example was using Juryoku or gravity. He referenced Sir Isaac Newton and the apple falling on Newton's head as he demonstrated how to use the weight of your body or the weight of your weapon in a natural and advantageous way.
Hatsumi Sensei has also been saying that we really shouldn't try to avoid the attack, we should move like Kaze, the wind or a cool breeze. To shed more light on this concept he referenced what the Japanese call Jiryoku. Jiryoku , notice the differnce in spelling from Juryoku (gravity), is an attacting or repelling magnetic force. Here we should look at the way two magnets clang together when the north and south are brought near each other. Or in the opposite case when we bring north to north or south to south, they almost magically glide by each other, each one subtly repelling the other. We've all experienced this, haven't we, if not go out and try it immediately. This is the feeling we should have in our movement!
This is only meant to be brief introduction to Fusui and hopefully it has shed a little light on the subject. It certainly isn't an easy concept to fully grasp, but as Soke divulges more, be assured additional articles will follow. So until then in the words of Hatsumi Sensei, " Gambatte Kudasai" which could be translated as "Please, work hard and keep going!